Activating the Notch signalling pathway is a promising route to treating reduced bone density
As we get older our bones lose density, making them more likely to fracture. Maintaining bone density relies on interactions between different cell types in our bones via the protein Notch. Researchers explore whether injecting adult mice with a protein that binds and activates Notch in bone cells — Dll4(E12) — can increase bone formation. Male mice benefited from this treatment but, because they have less bone surface, females did not. However, when female mice were injected with Dll4(E12) plus a hormone PTH used to treat women with brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) bone density was significantly improved, as revealed through micro-CT of their bones. Compared with untreated bones (far left), and bones treated with either Dll4(E12) or PTH (middle two), females that received both had denser bone (far right). Bone-targeted proteins that activate Notch may therefore prove useful in treating osteoporosis and other conditions that reduce bone density.
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